If you were starting fresh on a new planet that doesn't have instantaneous communications or easy travel options with Earth, it would be a lot easier to build a fundamentally different society.
Moving off Earth might actually be the easiest way to achieve what you're talking about.
I have to ask, what do you mean by sustainability here? Biological life has existed on earth for about 2 billion years, the human race for a million years and civilization for thousands of years. So in what sense is life on earth not sustainable, and what would have to change for you to consider it sustainable?
In the ultimate long run life anywhere isn't sustainable; the sun will eventually die and then the universe itself will experience heat death. So what's your cut off?
I very much recommend William Ophuls, Ecology and the Politics of Scarcity (1977) and Plato's Revenge (2004). He delivers the essential message of Limits to Growth in a chapter (TL;DR: there are limits to growth, get used to it), and explores the rather more interesting elements of the political dynamics of this.
Yes, life on earth has existed. Actually, for closer to 4 billion years. For the first 3.5 billion of those, there was little more complex than a single-celled organism, and those managed to just about destory the place (Great Oxygenation Event, Snowball Earth). The cycle's been repeated a few times since.
Humans are accelerating that process greatly this go-round.
Biological life existed for 5 orders of magnitude longer than civilization without the sort of devastating consequence civilization has wrought.
The cut off is civilization suggesting that it is no more disruptive than biological life to the long term sustainability of itself, but that is just obviously not looking like the case right now. Exponential population growth in a resource-constrained system will hit a limit and the result will not be pretty.
That is far from scientifically certain. Out of the extremely numerous extinction events in Earth's history, 5 of them have been extremely major, and we are probably going through the 6th right now. Probably. It's still too early to make statements about this. Will the geological record of the age of humans be more pronounced than the other events? Probably, but we can't claim that wearing a scientist hat. It's even more dubious to claim that this 6th event will have a more strongly negative effect on biodiversity. Things are happening so fast, and once all is said and done, humans may ultimately increase the diversity of Earth-derived life, because we have the ability to recombine existing species and even bring back functional extinct ones. It all depends on how we manage from here on out.
First, define "devastating consequence" in clear terms. Then, and only then, go search the web for "oxygen catastrophe".
Does this answer your question? https://ecology2011tamara2011sp.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/...
I could spend all afternoon coming up with alternative explanations. Ultimately your point of view is not popular on HN because it amounts to the logical fallacy of whataboutism and is a rude change of subject.
Oh, there was - look back in ancient history, with tribes using only what they needed in terms of resources and land (and for what its worth, some of these cultures still exist in remote places). The problem is capitalism and the imperialism that rose with it, beginning in Ancient Rome. By now, it's deeply ingrained into our societies, even those who call themselves "communist". I believe that only the natural constraints of a moon/Mars base, together with their initially small population, will force the settlers to cooperate on equal basis and thus lead to a small-scale sustainable economy.
The only problem is, small colonies won't be sustainable in genetic terms: there will be an "incest bottleneck", and the only way to solve this is to expand the population base - where the effects of a capitalist society will become apparent again more sooner than later...
And I'm not sure if it's wise to send sperm/eggs via space craft... while "inside a human" the cells are protected from radiation and especially they're (re)generated, not so much when they're frozen in space.
Your argument about new resource growth is interesting, but misses A) the previously mentioned steady state populations of developed society disproves the 'population explosion' and B) the enormous efficiency gains we'll reap from expansion to new worlds.
For me at least, the drive to expand isn't Malthusian, it's roughly cultural. If you buy into Hirschman's Voice and Exit dichotomy, a frontier provides the ultimate exit to society's current structure. We're observing the effects of a voiceless society with no exit right now, and it's far from good. The last great round of expansion birthed all sorts of new societal structures, some of which ultimately out-competed those of the old world and now dominate this world.
Lastly, beyond the social/cultural effects of the frontier, this frontier in particular is going to be really, really good for our technological development. The absolute quantity of resources available to us will only grow as n^2, but specific resources will grow by unimaginable factors within that. Platinum group metals will plummet in price, orbital manufacturing will enable amazing new materials, and built-in-space orbital structures are too transformative to even try predicting .
It's possible (though I don't buy it) that Earth society is unsustainable and doomed. Whether that's true or not, I think it has little bearing on our ability to create a 10,000x smaller society off Earth (1mm humans to start), and I think such a parallel society off-Earth would be enormously helpful in making Earth sustainable. Both through the effects of a frontier, and simple technological advancement.
Orbit is a very offense-biased environment. It's much easier to hit a ship / missile with some high velocity pebbles and ruin its day than it is to survive those pebbles. New tech could radically shift that balance, but I don't think it will.
As long as war in orbit works like that, what you get is WW1-esque. An enormous no mans land with no cover and ample weaponry pointed at it. Now, if people are really insistent on fighting an offensive war that'll be WW1 style terrible. But I'm hopeful the only wars we'll see will be for independence, and that dynamic will just destroy the will to enforce control over distant bodies.
Overpopulation is a non-issue, because it's not population itself which is a problem for sustainability, but rather resource consumption. Which, unsurprisingly, is vastly higher per person in places without an “overpopulation” problem (“developed countries”) than in places “with” one (“undeveloped countries”).
Overpopulation is a way of blaming the rest of the world for the industrialised world's problems.
So since we would like to have everyone live a "comfortable" life, we'll need to slow the growth so that we have enough to pass around.
Xiao-ping Deng knew the path to growth included slowing pop growth. See China dev vs Indian dev and growth. Costa Rica vs Guatemala, etc.
This is a silly straw man. Who says we can't reduce our resource usage without destroying modern society? Our massive amounts of waste are not necessary to our way of life.
> And we're not about to tell people in rural India and rural Africa, sorry, you're too late. You can't aspire to live like us or your rich city dwellers.
Except you are saying that, because you're suggesting they shouldn't be allowed to have as many children as they'd like.
Modern society can become more "efficient;" produce less waste per cap. But we can't bring everyone (and their future pop growth) into this lifestyle without enviro impact. We can achieve it if high growth pops reduce growth and we all aim for more efficient lifestyles.
>Except you are saying that, because you're suggesting they shouldn't be allowed to have as many children as they'd like.
Nope. I'm saying like China, they can if they curtail pop growth. Compare the trajectories of China and India.
Population of China: 1.4 billion
Population of Europe: 0.74 billion
Population of India: 1.3 billion
Europe isn't all that populous. And why compare an aggregation like "Europe" anyway? Tropical Africa is also more populous than Europe is. Southeast Asia is less populous, but not a lot less.
I mean we're actually doing things like eating all the nice fish in the ocean, chopping down all the Forrest for farm land, then there is the idea that people do need some space to be happen, living in the city is easier when you know you can escape to a secluded place, but that's becoming harder to do.
We've gotten really good at terraforming the Earth (unintentionally) and killing each other (intentionally) in the past century. In particular, one man has the power to end the world, he has no political experience, and he is in the White House. If we have a nuclear holocaust, the only silver lining can be in human populations on other celestial bodies. Hence, it is in the best long-term interest of humanity to go to the Moon and Mars - to ensure our survival.
Killing off humanity requires killing off 99.9999% of the population in a short amount of time. There is no plausible scenario that can do that: nuclear weapons won't do it, biological warfare won't do it, bolide impacts even at the scale of the Sudbury or Chicxulub probably can't do it.
You might say that the science on the nuclear winter effect isn't anywhere near settled... why take the chance?
I like to have faith in humanity but this is a bit too much.
> March 15, 2006: NASA astronauts are going back to the moon
This broke my heart.
> That's the surprising conclusion of Clive R. Neal, associate professor of civil engineering and geological sciences at the University of Notre Dame after he and a team of 15 other planetary scientists reexamined Apollo data from the 1970s. "The moon is seismically active," he told a gathering of scientists at NASA's Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) meeting in League City, Texas, last October.
Because of the moon's low gravity, it is a fine place for manufacturing big, heavy equipment for space travel.
And lastly, the technology developed for a sustainable moon base ought to transfer well to Mars.
1) Two week day/night cycle: This means it would be hard to power your base with solar energy. You'd need massive battery banks. Or another power source. You could try nuclear, but cooling might be a challenge without air or water. Mars has a slightly longer day than earth, which makes solar power much more viable (though solar insolation is less than on earth)
2) No atmosphere, so all Oxygen has to be brought in (unless we find it somewhere else on the Moon). Also any carbon needed to grow plants needs to be brought in. Mars has a thin atmosphere, but we could get Oxygen and Carbon from it.
3) It's not clear if we can find water on the moon. Mars almost certainly has water underground, and for sure at the pole.
4) The lower gravity might have long term effects on humans. Though to be fair, we don't know if Mars gravity will be harmful as well.
I guess for me the question is if that will matter or we get strong AI first.
Hm, maybe because you'd get twice the gravity and a "day" that lasts closer to 24 hours than 24 days?
Lower gravity doesn't matter as much if you can be regularly cycled back to earth.
Edit: I've just found , which adds a few additional details: first, they were designed for a lifetime of one year, so 1977 was well beyond their expected activity; and second, after they were decommissioned they continued to send carrier signals (but no data) which were used for various purposes.
More detail than you ever wanted to know can be found in the ALSEP termination report: https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/misc/documents/b32116.pdf
Pages 101-105 of the termination report I linked to above have the power output curves for the various RTGs, showing the decay curve (1 lunation ~= 1 month).